Humboldt County orders $200K poll on cannabis, transient occupancy taxes, abandoned vehicle fee

Thought your tax dollars go to cops, libraries, roads and other public services?  You are wrong.  In Humboldt County the Board of Supervisors have determined to use your tax dollars to get MORE tax dollars from you.  Instead of making people more prosperous, Humboldt is trying to go deeper in your pockets.

“Humboldt County supervisors agreed Tuesday to ask a $200,000 question: Would their constituents support changes to ballot measures on the county’s cannabis and transient occupancy taxes and its abandoned vehicle abatement fee?

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1, with 3rd District Supervisor Mike Wilson absent, to authorize the County Administrative Office to execute a $200,000 professional services agreement with Lew Edwards Group, Oakland-based consultants, to gauge public opinion on updating the three existing measures ahead of the June 2022 election.

Ballots measures should be sponsored and paid for, when taxes are involved, by private folks.  This is a conflict of interest plus taking tax money under false pretenses.

Humboldt County orders $200K poll on cannabis, transient occupancy taxes, abandoned vehicle fee

By Isabella Vanderheiden, Times Standard,   6/15/21   

Humboldt County supervisors agreed Tuesday to ask a $200,000 question: Would their constituents support changes to ballot measures on the county’s cannabis and transient occupancy taxes and its abandoned vehicle abatement fee?

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1, with 3rd District Supervisor Mike Wilson absent, to authorize the County Administrative Office to execute a $200,000 professional services agreement with Lew Edwards Group, Oakland-based consultants, to gauge public opinion on updating the three existing measures ahead of the June 2022 election.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Deputy County Administrative Officer Sean Quincey said staff had identified “a number of update and reform issues” that could warrant consideration from voters.

“Consistent with the county’s tradition, the county continues to embraces opportunities for voters to weigh in on important policies and issues affecting Humboldt County’s and their families’ futures,” Quincey read from the staff report. “At this point, staff are recommending that your board authorize the CAO to engage with longtime county consultant Lew Edwards Group to conduct public opinion research, engage the community, report back on public priorities and interests, and perform other services as required, and return to your board to discuss potential next steps or opportunities in 2022.”

Ultimately, the board voted 4-0, with 3rd District Supervisor Mike Wilson absent, to approve staff’s recommendation.

Measure S – Cannabis Cultivation Tax

After its passage in 2016, the scope of Measure S – the $1 to $3 per square foot cannabis cultivation tax created to maintain and improve county services – was called into question in the case of Silva v. County of Humboldt.

“In light of the Court of Appeal’s decision … taxpayers may submit an application for a potential full or partial refund of excise tax paid under Measure S between the years of 2017 and 2021,” Quincey said. “There appears to still be much confusion and lack of a streamlined process to calculate these tax bills. Staff recommend researching the community’s interest in a measure to update, clarify and streamline this process without raising current tax rate.”

The board did not engage in discussion on Measure S.

Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Reform Measure

After hearing a report from the Humboldt County Visitors Bureau in February, the board directed staff to analyze the county’s TOT rate and return to the board for further discussion.

“Stakeholder groups have expressed to county staff and your board that the TOT program be reviewed for enhancements to support community, and visitor, interest-based enterprises to help ensure their continued economic viability into the future, and the need for a fair, equitable levy moving forward,” Quincey said.

Humboldt County Treasurer-Tax Collector John Bartholomew noted that that the county is not proposing any changes to entities already subject to the 10% TOT.

“There are certain entities in the county such as RV parks and campgrounds that are not being charged the 10% TOT and so that is one area that I think should be reviewed,” he said. “Being responsible for collecting taxes here in the county, I firmly believe that everyone needs to be treated the same and in this case, people that are visiting RV parks and campgrounds are not being treated the same as all other transients visiting Humboldt County.”

Bartholomew also acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry.

“We’re all well aware that pandemic has affected all of our lives but in particular, many people that get support from tourism-based activities, such as performing arts and just arts in general, have really been just hammered due to COVID,” he said. “…The pandemic has really, truly affected their ability to continue on and I think that is one group that should be considered for possible sharing and some of the revenue that comes from the TOT.”

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone expressed enthusiastic support for Bartholomew’s suggestion, adding that the “arts community is a huge part of what attracts people to Humboldt County to stay the night and spend this money.”

Abandoned Vehicle Abatement (AVA) Measure

The county implemented a $1 fee per vehicle registration in 1992 to pay for the removal of abandoned vehicles. An amendment to California Vehicle Code in 2001 required counties to renew AVA fees every 10 years.

“The passage of Proposition 26 in 2010 altered the definitions of ‘fee’ and ‘tax’ under the California Constitution, and legal counsel advised that the AVA Fee is now considered a tax that is subject to a voter approval requirement,” the staff report noted. “…The ($1) fee may be imposed in a county if the board of supervisors of the county, by a two-thirds vote, and a majority of the cities having a majority of the incorporated population within the county have adopted resolutions providing for the establishment of the authority and imposition of the fee.”

The existing AVA program will sunset on April 2022. To reauthorize the program, the board must submit a resolution to the state Department of Motor Vehicles by Aug. 21, 2021 for consideration.

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn asked if the county could increase the fee to “three or four dollars.”

“The direction that we’re asking to get from your board is to explore some of these issues so those things are things that we that staff can take a look into,” Quincey replied.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

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